Dec 15, 2019 08:00am
How to Have Joy in the Suffering

I’ve never understood why Christians are called to be joyful sufferers until recently. Like, I understood the theology, sure. I can follow James’ logic: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4).

Trials strengthen. Sure. But how does that really lead to joy?

Practically, I didn’t know how it worked.

That is, until Isen broke his arm. Yup, our one-year old missed his step climbing down off the trampoline and went bump. Two fractures. Cast for two weeks. Poor guy. But don’t feel too bad – I’m behind on posts, so he’s already healed. “The cast is of the past,” as they say. Kidding, nobody says that. 

Anyway, much can be learned about being joyful sufferers from how he handled it.

Smiling in the brokenness

Study well the picture above. That’s a child in a broken world. With a broken arm. An annoying cast. A heavy cast. He doesn’t understand why he has it. Neither does he understand for how long it’ll encapsulate his arm. Still, he smiles. He plays. He adapts and lives. Even though he has a cast.

It’s a testament to the durability of kids, yes. Their spirits fling on in life. Normal is whatever is in front of them, so it’s always changing. If that means today I wear this heavy, hot, hard thing around my arm, so be it. My wife (who took him to the doctor) said that when they first placed the cast on, Isen frowned. But after banging it against the wall, he smiled. 

I imagine his thoughts went something like this: “Ah, this stinks. But . . . whoa. I just hit the wall and didn’t feel a thing. Perfect! A built-in melee weapon to use on my brothers.” And so he smiled.

Cracked teapots

The great Christian author Edith Shaeffer taught that we are all “cracked teapots”. Yes, we are functioning and even lovely. But all of us have chips in the paint, or even minor leaks at the bottom. For me, I know how badly I hurt at times. While my wife struggles currently with physically chronic pain, I’m wounded more on the emotional side. I constantly worry if my life counts. Do I matter? This transpires into, Is it even worth it? Why get up out of bed? Even when the sun shines brightly, and my boys’ laughter drifts in through the backyard, I can simply hate life. Being honest.

I am a cracked teapot. I’m wearing a “cast” on my spirit. It’s heavy. I don’t understand why I have it. And I’m not sure how long it’s gonna be there – maybe ‘til the grave. 

What hovers above your pain

This is what I needed to learn from Isen. Despite the casts of my life (and you with yours), I can truly smile and express joy. Why? Because in Christ I know the healing is coming. The mending is taking place. It’s here, but more is on its way. The new earth awaits. So, hovering above all my emotional, physical, or spiritual pain is a greater, further-lasting reality. The full redemption of my body, which Jesus purchased on the cross for all who believe in him.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

This is good news for joy sufferers.

Copyright © 2019 by Justin Talbert @ . Used with permission. 
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